The 2nd Amendment doesn’t need a “safe space”

Photo credit: Ben Carlson, Editor of The Anderson News

On New Year’s Eve, I found myself at Urgent Care. My flu had been getting worse over the past few weeks (though I’d had a flu shot) and I woke up on Dec. 31 with two realizations: I wasn’t getting any better on my own, and this was the last day my insurance would pay for a doctor’s appointment and medication, as Jan. 1 sets a new clock for meeting the new and dreaded deductible.

Welcome to our convoluted American healthcare system, where you find yourself hoping you’re sick enough on the right day.

The day got even more convoluted — Lucky me! — when, after picking up three prescriptions and restocking my supply of Puffs Plus with Lotion and a variety of chicken soups, I read this newspaper’s front-page headline, “Push on to make county 2nd Amendment sanctuary,” and Editor Ben Carlson’s corresponding editorial.

Having just received medical care, I considered this sanctuary push alongside the fact that people often have to set up GoFundMe accounts and pray for donations because a child needs life-saving medical care. America, where “healthcare for all” is roundly ridiculed, but “guns for all” is worthy of signing petitions to challenge the Constitution. With the added irony of declaring ourselves a sanctuary county — a “safe space” — for guns, while blowing nine kinds of gaskets at the idea of being a sanctuary for human beings.

Tell me what I’m missing.

Some time ago, I had a long conversation with a friend here in town about his reasons for being, in his words, “a big 2nd Amendment guy.” (Note that yes, it is still possible to be friends with people you disagree with politically, no matter what your TV tells you.) It was dead of winter, and we were the last two standing outside, building locked, in downtown Lawrenceburg. The wind kept blowing harder, but we kept debating and wrapping our coats tighter until finally the cold won out and we were forced to give closing arguments.

“What if, one day,” he said, “the government showed up to take my property, your property, or the town’s property? If that happened, our last defense would be a well-armed militia.”

“So what you’re telling me,” I said, “is that if President Trump sends the Marines, with all of their equipment, manpower, and firepower, to take your house, you’re going to be able to fight off the Marines?”

“That’s not the point,” he said. “The point is that if they know they’re dealing with an armed citizenry, they’ll think twice.”

I understood his point. Still do. But folks, if we ever get to the point that the Marines are rolling into Kentucky in tanks and taking our property, we’ve got exponentially worse problems than a few guns in the house are going to solve.

Perhaps this is where you remind me of the “good guy with a gun” theory by pointing to the recent shooting at the church in White Settlement, TX. If so, this is where I remind you I am not anti-gun. But the story here is not the former reserve, deputy sheriff, a member of the church’s voluntary security team, who took down the shooter with one shot. The story is that, with his long criminal record and psychological history, the shooter should not have had access to a gun. Any gun.

Tell me how being a 2nd Amendment sanctuary makes our community safer in a situation like this.

Noah Pruitt, the local resident who started the petition to make Anderson Co. a safe space for the 2nd Amendment, said last week, “We just want the county to declare this a 2nd Amendment sanctuary, and if any unconstitutional laws are passed that they would not be enforced locally.”

Please explain how Mr. Pruitt with his petition, or law enforcement, get to decide which laws are unconstitutional and which ones are not. Laws which, by definition, became laws when they were passed by elected lawmakers who took an oath to the Constitution.

Mr. Carlson argued in his editorial “that if state and federal lawmakers declare some of the firearms and magazines locked in my gun safe are suddenly illegal or require registration, I’ll have a simple choice to make: obey the law or become a criminal.”

Being required to register a deadly weapon, or giving up a few guns used for recreation, is worth becoming a criminal?

And last, can we talk about the photo that ran with the article, the one of two high school boys posing with “a large flag which bears the image of a military-styled rifle and the words ‘Come and Take It’ fixed to the bumper” of one of their trucks?

Be honest. If the two boys in that photo were black, wearing hoodies and baggy pants, would you look upon it so admiringly? How might law enforcement react to such a photo of two young black men pointing to a weapon like that while daring them to “come and take it?”

On New Year’s Eve in Harris County, Texas, a state which has some of the most lax gun laws in the country, a 61 year-old woman died in her driveway after she was shot by celebratory gunfire. Consider the abject absurdity of dying by something called celebratory gunfire.

On New Year’s Eve in Anderson Co., coughing myself into a massive headache, I took my meds and got ready for bed at 6 p.m. My husband offered to heat me up some soup, but I insisted on making a grilled ham and cheese I couldn’t even taste because by God after three weeks of chicken/vegetable, chicken/rice, and chicken/noodle, I refused to swallow one more bowl of soup, even if broth would have been the best thing for me.

Guns don’t need sanctuary, people do. And petitions like this are a reminder that we are all capable of getting het up and making nonsensical declarations and decisions, big and small, for no other reason than to prove a point.


Welcome home, Hazel Belle

Our 2020 kicks off with our new rescue pup!

Hazel Belle is about 2 years old, and she was found starving, with Parvo, covered in ticks, and nursing a litter of puppies in Rockcastle County, Kentucky.

I’ve had my eye out for an elderly rescue, but for a number of reasons none were working out. Golden Rescue of Louisville rejected our application outright because our yard did not meet their fencing requirements, the older dog we wanted to meet at Camp Jean was adopted (yeah!) before we had the chance to meet him, another big girl could not live in a house with a cat, and yet another would not be good with small children (and we have a new baby grandson). Anyway … you get the point.

A few weeks ago, as I was coming down with the flu, I stopped by L.I.F.E. House 4 Animals to meet an 8 year old they’d had for several months. I knew, as we often know, within minutes that she was too reactive to live with my 2 rowdy dogs and a visiting toddler. As I was sadly walking her back to her kennel, I passed this little girl.

She walked quietly right up to the fence, and when I knelt down to pet her through the chainlink, she looked me in the eye, leaned her whole body into me, and sighed. I took her out of the kennel to spend some time with her. She was lovely, truly. But she was only 2 years old, and I was not looking for a 2 year old. I took her picture. I went home. I could not stop thinking about her.

Three days later, much sicker with the flu, I took my husband to meet her and about 5 minutes into taking her for a walk he said, “We’re not leaving her here, we’re taking her home.” We had no idea at the time, but it turns out she’s housebroken, crate-trained, great on a leash, and loves to ride in the car!

I’m almost over the flu, and it already feels like Hazel Belle — who we think is a combination of about 5 different breeds and will max out at 35 pounds once she puts on some weight — has always been here!

Happy 2020, everyone.

Let’s talk about Jesus, shall we.

I recently found my way back to church. A dear friend was going to be speaking to her congregation about the giving nature of her daughter, an 18 year-old girl who died a few short months ago, and I wanted to support her by being there in the pews. I got there early. I slipped quietly into the back row. And I waited for the service to begin.

I am, admittedly, someone who continually struggles with my faith or lack thereof, and yet on Dec. 18, exactly one week before Christmas, I was as stunned as anyone to see Georgia Republican Barry Loudermilk stand on the House floor during the impeachment hearings and compare President Trump to Jesus. 

Yes. I said Jesus. I wish I were exaggerating, but here’s the quote: “When Jesus was falsely accused of treason,” Rep. Loudermilk said, “Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this President in this process.”

Arguably, one of the most disturbing aspects of the Trump presidency has been the unequivocal support bestowed upon on him by Evangelicals and Americans of, frankly, every Christian denomination. When asked in October 2018, Pastor Jerry Falwell told The Guardian that “the president was a good moral example. …“Absolutely. Ever since I’ve known him, he’s been a good, moral person, a strong leader, a tough leader – and that’s what this country needs.” 

Which leads me to ask, in this season of Advent, for a definition of what is good and moral about the actions of President Trump and his administration.

Was it how he wrote checks to pay off the porn star he silenced before his election while in the White House? His strong-arming of the new Ukrainian president to investigate a political rival to help him win the next election? The more than 15,000 lies he’s told, as tracked by the Washington Post, since taking office? How he stole money from his own charity?

Is it the separation of thousands of children, including infants and toddlers, from their parents at our southern border? On October 25, the Associated Press reported that the number of children separated since the summer of 2017 is 5,460, and that the Trump administration kept such poor records that many children will never see their parents again.

If this is where you argue that these parents are “illegals” and getting what they deserve, I ask you to point to the passage in your Bible that condones such horrific, inhumane treatment for your fellow human beings. I can’t seem to find it in mine. 

On the night of his impeachment, at a rally in Michigan, the president stood on stage and jeered that late Rep. John Dingell, who died in February, was probably “looking up” from hell. Why? Because his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Democrat, dared to vote yes on articles of impeachment. 

And it wasn’t just the president’s words, despicable as they were, which were decidedly not Christian. It was the laughing, cheering crowd of thousands in that stadium who appeared to love what he said, followed by this tweet from Paula White-Cain, his spiritual advisor: “Tonight we lift up our President, @realDonaldTrump in prayer against all wickedness & demonic schemes against him and his purpose in the name of Jesus. Surround him with your angels and let them encamp around about him. Let all demonic stirrings and manipulations be overturned!”

I know I’ve been away from church for a long time, but is it right to cheer a president as he makes fun of a dead man and his grieving wife? And Ms. White-Cain’s tweet sounds less like the words of a faith leader and more like someone invoking Jesus’s name — much like Rep. Loudermilk on the House floor — to please her boss and maintain her own close proximity to power. 

I’m taking it one week at a time, but I will be back at church this Sunday. I feel welcome there, and for this I am thankful. But as someone who struggles with her faith, the constant, wanton cruelty and amoral behavior of this president and his circle make me question how anyone who claims to be a Christian can support such a man. 

What, I wonder, would Jesus do?

What happens when we get tired of letting Trump divide us?


(Tom Brenner/Reuters)

I’m at the The Washington Post today:

A month after President Trump’s inauguration, my dad and I stopped speaking. The Trump election broke us, and I know we are not alone.

How many loved ones have you stopped calling or texting, blocked, unfollowed or unfriended? How many friends and family members do you simply avoid these days, choosing to skip your niece’s wedding or make other plans for the holidays? How long until we all decide that neither our adoration nor our disdain for Donald Trump is worth abandoning the people we love?



It’s hard to vote in Kentucky. It doesn’t have to be.

Photo credit: Lexington Herald-Leader

The first time I voted in Kentucky, the election official sitting in a metal folding chair close to my electronic station noticed I was having trouble with the knobs. “Need some help there,” he said. And when I told him I was new here he proceeded to show me that the knobs worked opposite from what seemed logical.

After I finished voting he grinned and whispered, “Never trust the machine. Always use a paper ballot, that way there’s a trail.”

That was November 8, 2016. It was 8:30 a.m. And I was the only voter there.

I am not alleging fraud here. My one vote in Anderson County, which went 72 percent for Donald Trump, was of little consequence. I am telling you this story because I’ve moved 31 times and lived in six other states—Missouri, Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, Washington, California—and Kentucky is by far the most difficult state I’ve ever voted in.

My polling place is close to my house, but I teach at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington, a good one-hour drive during rush hour. I could try to vote before work, but what if I had kids to get to school or some other preclusion? I can’t vote on my lunch hour (too far away). And forget leaving work in time to make it to the polls before six.

To say I am concerned about the upcoming election on November 5 is an understatement, not only due to our limited hours to cast a vote, but for the issues that spur people to the polls.

Everybody talks a good game about the economy being the primary reason for voting—It’s the economy, stupid!—but the joke’s on us. People don’t tend to vote on kitchen-table issues like jobs and healthcare, and we all know it. People vote on emotional issues, and in Kentucky that issue is abortion.

In the weeks leading up to the 2018 Midterms, I canvassed for Lt. Col. Amy McGrath. If I knocked on a door and the homeowner said no, they were not voting for Amy, a good 90 percent of the time the answer to my question of why was singular: “Abortion at nine months.”

This was, and remains, false. No woman has an “abortion” at the end of a pregnancy. They give birth. And then, based on the health (or lack thereof) of the baby after it’s born, parents are sometimes faced with one of the most devastating decisions they will ever make. A decision that has no business being forced on them by the government.

So why was this issue—an issue not based in any medical or moral reality—the number one, if not the sole, reason for how they cast their vote?

I would argue this: It is much easier to feel like you’re doing one seemingly righteous thing than to have to confront the overwhelming barrage of real-world problems facing our families and our neighbors, and vote accordingly.

According to U.S. News and World Report, Kentucky ranks an embarrassing 10th from the bottom, 40th out of the 50 states, with a median household income of $26,779. I would like Gov. Matt Bevin, Sen. Mitch McConnell, and other elected officials to tell us how our families are supposed to thrive, or even survive, on this in 2019?

Kentucky’s detailed rankings are even worse:

#44 Economic Opportunity
#45 Fiscal Stability
#43 Pre-K through 12
#43 Higher Education
#44 Employment
#47 Healthcare Quality
#46 Public Health

I think a lot about the families behind those doors I knocked on for McGrath in 2018, many in the poorer sections of the county, and it infuriates me to see them hoodwinked by politicians and preachers into voting on one issue that has zero to do with their jobs, income, healthcare, education, or the futures of their children.

I spent a decade in California. I voted in person one time. I voted by mail, at my leisure, while sitting at my kitchen table, weeks in advance. That’s how easy voting should be.

Why do Kentuckians vote from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.? I can only conclude that our current elected officials do not care to make voting any more accessible. That, in fact, they prefer we do not vote.

Kentucky deserves better. You deserve better. Which is why I beg you, somehow some way, to get out there and vote on November 5. Vote on the real issues. And show them they work for you.

Take away his damn phone

Photo posted by Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, thanking the the president for his leadership AFTER said president handed our partners, the Kurds, over to Turkey and to their likely deaths.

When I was in 9th grade, I got in trouble on the phone.

A group of us had crashed a wedding reception in the church gym where we snuck red solo cups of beer from the keg. The next morning, desperate as I was for the cool kids to think I was cool, too, I dragged our hallway phone into my bedroom to brag. A girlfriend who’d spent the night got on our kitchen extension and, while I was doling out the details, thought it would be funny to hand my mother the phone.

It was funny, alright. I learned my cool friend wasn’t such a good friend, I got grounded, and I lost phone privileges for a month.

Forty years and a spate of smart technology later, I’m starting to think the president, much like 14 year-old me, isn’t so smart when it comes to the phone.

Two weeks ago, a Whistleblower rang the alarm about his July 25 call with the Ukrainian president—a call the president insists was perfect, even as his own transcript shows him asking for a personal, political favor (an investigation of the Bidens) before releasing military aid—which prompted the House of Representatives to launch an impeachment inquiry.

Then, as if he weren’t in enough trouble, he stood on the White House lawn and told reporters he thought China should investigate the Bidens as well, prompting the following response from Republican Sen. Mitt Romney: “By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”

So how did the president spend the first weekend in October? With friends? With family? With his grandchildren or young son?

Of course not. He spent his weekend the way he always does, like a lonely teenager, pouting in his room, on the phone, desperately trying to prove he is one of the cool kids.

In a few long-winded tweets, he attacked Sen. Romney, who was pictured spending time with his grandchildren at a pumpkin patch, calling the senator “a pompous ass” and suggesting it is Romney who should be IMPEACHED in all-caps. (Note: there is no such thing as impeaching a senator.)

He then went on ad nauseam, tweet after raging tweet, about how mean Democrats are, about whistleblowers and losers and Sleepy Joe.

But he saved his biggest, most dangerous, hurrah for Sunday night, when he reportedly blindsided the Pentagon in a phone call with Erdogan wherein he promised immediate withdrawal of American security forces from the Syrian border, abandoning the Kurds who have fought beside our troops and against terrorism, exposing them to almost-certain slaughter by Turkey’s military.

The same withdrawal he committed to back in December that prompted the immediate resignation of General James Mattis, his Secretary of Defense. Remember him?

I wonder, where are the pro-lifers at times like this? Maybe our very own Gov. Matt Bevin, Sen. Maj. Leader Mitch McConnell, or Rep. Andy Barr could explain what exactly is pro-life, or even pro-American, about leaving our friends, the Kurds, to die on the battlefield.

As my mother would say, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?”

Consider the leaders of the countries he calls friends—Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China, Russia, Turkey—authoritarian regimes with little to no respect for basic human rights. What is his attraction and supplication to these tyrants about? What is in it for him, and for them?

In this latest episode with Erdogan, President Trump’s “chumminess has unsettled both appointed and elected officials suspicious of Mr. Erdogan’s repressive policies, Islamist sympathies and deepening relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Three years into his presidency, you have to wonder if the president does not understand the national security implications of his phone conversations, the embarrassment that is his Twitter feed, or the dangers of his chosen friends. Or if he simply doesn’t care.

How, I ask, is there not one family member, cabinet appointee, senator or congressman in Washington D.C. who is concerned enough to take away his phone, to direct him to better friends, to keep him out of trouble?

How is there not a single person in the president’s orbit as smart as the mother of a 14 year-old girl?


Give President Trump his Nobel Prize

This week at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), President Trump told reporters, “I think I’m going to get a Nobel Prize for a lot of things, if they gave it out fairly, which they don’t.”

Let’s do it, people. Let’s give the man his prize. Let’s enshrine his place in history as the first man, the first president, to receive the Nobel Prize while being impeached for violating the Constitution of the United States.

Surely, no one has worked harder for such a prize these last few years, racking up a miles-long list of, in his own impervious parlance, “a lot of things.” The man’s got a point. Many points, in fact. And while we could begin with his latest debonair foray, withholding almost $400 million in aid to Ukraine and then calling the new Ukrainian president to have a little chat about investigating his top political rival, how about we go back to the beginning. To simpler times.

For more than five years before becoming president in 2016, Mr. Trump promoted the lie, falsehood, fabrication, deception, invention, fiction, tall-tale, whopper that Barack Obama, our first African-American president was not born in the U.S. The sheer fortitude of such a prolonged, malevolent effort was at the very least—what’s the word?—indecorous, and deserves more than an honorable mention.

Recall that Toni Morrison, ”who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality,” became the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.

And how dare we speak of literature, of visionaries, of American reality and our reality TV star president—You’re fired!—without paying tribute to an original, Trump University and the $25M settlement in which, as the New York attorney general stated, “victims of Donald Trump’s fraudulent university will finally receive the relief they deserve … [though] some elderly plaintiffs who paid $20,000-plus in tuition died waiting to receive their checks from the settlement.”

But wait, you ask, what about his accomplishments since being elected, what of his breathtaking mastery of the presidency, of foreign affairs?

Surely we all recall his first act as president, when he stood before the Memorial Wall at CIA headquarters and said, honoring the stars of the dead patriots on the wall behind him, “I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth, right?”

And yet, not to be outdone, even by himself, “the most shocking episode for the CIA came last July in Helsinki, when Trump publicly accepted President Vladimir Putin’s smug assurances that Russia had not meddled in the 2016 presidential election—even though the U.S. intelligence community had concluded that Russia had.”

Then, there was the president’s first, official, overseas trip to the Middle East—a first for a U.S. president—where he was warmly feted by his friends, the Saudis, who reportedly own the entire 45th floor of Trump Tower. The same Saudis who harbored 9/11 terrorists.

But I digress.

Mr. Trump has since dismissed, as one does, the formal U.N. investigation indicating that the murder and dismemberment with a bone saw of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi was a gruesome, premeditated, “extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible.”

And who can forget those love letters—Love letters! Obama with his fancy Nobel Prize never got love letters!—from North Korea’s Kim Jung Un who, after multiple meetings with Art of the Deal tragedian and raconteur Trump, “has continued to test short-range ballistic missiles and has made no firm commitments to stop testing submarine launched missiles.”

The Nobel Prize is awarded in only 6 areas: literature, peace, physics, chemistry, medicine, and economics. This seems shortsighted, does it not? What if the president is right? What if it’s not fair?

What if, now stick with me here, Alfred Nobel (inventor, entrepreneur, scientist, poet, and businessman) who established the prize in 1895 was egregiously remiss in not adding “trust in tyrants” to the list?

As Congress begins impeachment proceedings, based in part on a whistleblower complaint buried weeks ago by the White House, let’s do it. Let’s make it right! Let’s put aside the lofty vicissitudes of visionary force and poetic import of Toni Morrison. Let’s lift to the heavens the latest horrifying scandal in Mr. Trump’s long list of horrifying scandals and give the man his Nobel Prize.

Admit it. He has, as he so humbly reminded us at the UNGA, done “a lot of things.”

The Professor of Immortality

It may not feel like Fall — it remains 90 and bone-dry here in Kentucky — but it’s still time for reading both the newly released and getting to those books that have been languishing a little too long on your nightstand.

Here’s what I’ve read so far this month, and I have good news. Margaret Atwood is a genius, yes, but she also remains a riveting storyteller. Stephanie Land’s memoir will inspire you and break your heart. And you won’t be able to put down AJ Finn’s thriller, even if it’s got one of those “the woman” titles that make me roll my eyes because don’t you expect publishers and marketers to be a hell of a lot more creative?

But I point you to the surprise, to the gem on top of this stack: Eileen Pollack’s The Professor of Immortality. Ms. Pollack is equal parts scientist and novelist, and I loved the tension between Maxine and her work, a woman who’s dedicated her life to studying our obsession with technology, and our naïveté about the possible, and even inevitable, human consequences.

Loneliness. That’s what they ought to be studying…. All those geniuses in Silicon Valley keep inventing gadgets to distract themselves from their pain.

Nothing she says in Intro to Future Studies will help [her students] get into graduate school. And yet, they enroll in her class. They want someone to advise them. How can they find meaningful work? Contentment? Courage? Love? She wants to tell them a young man once sat in these same seats, and if she had been a wiser teacher, she might have been able to make him see that his arguments were flawed, his extremism wasn’t warranted, his anger needed to be tempered by compassion.

I don’t want to say more, because I don’t want to give anything way. The Professor of Immortality comes out October 1st. Pre-order here, or from your favorite local bookstore. You won’t want to put it on your nightstand with all the others. You’ll want to read it right off and talk about it with friends.

And here’s to Fall weather … if it ever gets here.

This 9/11, on Shakespeare and remembrance

My Herald-Leader column for this Friday, Sep. 13

Lind Hall, University of Minnesota

Like most Americans, I wake up heavy every 9/11. This year, I also woke up remembering the Shakespeare class I was in that day at the University of Minnesota, and how teachers open us up and change the way we think about the world.

I was 36 years old. And I should not have been in Professor Leyasmeyer’s—Archie’s—class that day. But when I’d decided to go back to college a few years earlier, I’d confidently signed up for Beginning Shakespeare only to drop it after two classes. The teacher, a woman whose name I can’t recall, spoke in fancy literary terms and rattled off so much Shakespearean prose I felt ashamed. I did not belong with those kids almost 20 years my junior, I thought. I wasn’t smart enough to be there.

Of course, I didn’t tell anyone at the time. Not my husband or my kids, who were proud of me for going back to school. And certainly not my mother, who was, at only 56, in end-stage COPD and emphysema, and who busied herself telling every doctor and nurse she saw how smart I was, how proud she was of me. I just quietly dropped the class and moved on. Later. I would try Shakespeare again later.

Which is how I found myself in Lind Hall, in Archie’s classroom, on 9/11.

It was late morning. We didn’t know what was happening yet, but I remember looking up at the sky a lot, at the tops of buildings, as there were many (thankfully false) reports that there could be more attacks and they didn’t know where. I remember what a gorgeous, sunny, Fall day it was. I remember the half-empty parking lot. I remember walking across the campus quad and how eerie it felt with so few students there. But our class? Our class was full.

We were studying King Lear. Archie was elderly then, a year from retirement after four decades teaching, and he began by saying he knew we were all worried, but there was nothing we could do at this moment. “So let’s learn,” he said. “For the next 85 minutes, let’s take turns reading aloud, and let’s find comfort in the beautiful history of language.”

And so, we read.

“The weight of this sad time we must obey,
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.”

“No, I’ll not weep.
I have full cause of weeping, but this heart
Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws,
Or ere I’ll weep.”

In the end, it was Archie who, when it was his turn, simply went silent. He leaned back onto the front of his desk, looked at us, his class, and cried. Then he stood by the door, his worn copy of King Lear in one hand, and he hugged each of us as we left class.

Fast forward 18 years. When I turned on my laptop, I went looking for my teacher, for Archie.

But as happens now, the first thing I saw was a Trump tweet. It was jarring. Minutes before he was set to be on the White House lawn to lead a 9/11 remembrance, he wrote, “If it weren’t for the never ending Fake News about me, and with all that I have done (more than any other President in the first 2 1/2 years!), I would be leading the “Partners” of the LameStream Media by 20 points. Sorry, but true!”

Who finds comfort in language like this? And yet this is what we live with now, what we are punished with daily, even on the 18th anniversary of 9/11.

I found Archie’s obituary. He died October 22, 2016, two weeks before the election. It read, “Born in Latvia in 1935, Leyasmeyer was living in a refugee camp in southern Germany at the end of WWII. At 14, he arrived in the US, knowing no English. At 18, he enrolled at Harvard.” He went on to get his Masters and PhD from Princeton. (You can read the full write up here.)

Archie once wrote, “the richness of human life and cultures on this little blue-white planet, so beautiful, so fragile, floating in the darkness of space.” As I sit here with his poetry on 9/11, as I remember his passion for life and for teaching, I can’t help but wonder what he might have put down on a “merit-based” immigration form.

Please rescue an elderly dog


We found Handsome, an elderly Golden Retriever, in Manteca, California in December 2013.

He’d been surrendered to a small, rural, high kill shelter in the desert, and they called Golden Rescue to say they had a sweet dog who was going to be put down. He was old, they said, and white-faced. Skinny, sickly, weak, and timid, with no chance of being adopted. And they did not have room.

This is no sales pitch.

I got a call from a woman I knew (barely, to be honest) at rescue. They’d pulled an old golden from the shelter, and a seemingly kind woman had taken him home and brought him back after one day. The woman had left him on her deck while she went to work the next day, she said, and he’d barked all day and “made a mess.” She could not have that. Would I consider meeting him?

We had 2 dogs. We were not looking for a 3rd.

I checked Handsome’s profile online: “I am looking for someone to love me and to build my confidence again,” it read. “I am very loving and gentle. Please come meet me and give me a chance to show you who I am.”

Dear god. My husband took Friday off. We drove to Manteca. The first time I knelt down on the concrete, Handsome sat and handed me his paw. Then he slept in my lap for the 2+  hour drive home.


He really was very sick. That was true. But after a few false starts (and some weeks of diarrhea) we found the right food and an enzyme combination that settled his insides down. He gained almost 30 pounds. And he lived another six years.

When we moved to Kentucky, we drove him (and our other 2 dogs) back-and-forth 5 times. Handsome was never happier than when he was in the car …. or truck, or boat, or golf cart, or tractor scoop. He simply loved to go wherever you were going. This picture was taken our first day in our new Kentucky home, after a 4 day, 35 hour drive.


If you met Handsome, you loved him. Not like. Love. I will always remember our friend, Nancy, sitting in the chair with him every time she came over, and our friend Teresa rolling down the driveway in her golf cart for the sole purpose of taking him for a ride. When I say he was the best dog, this is not hyperbole.

We often hear people say how great it was that we adopted an older dog. Please. We are far from saints. We also have a well-bred Lab who eats poop and never stops jumping on people, and we adopted a hound-mix puppy 2 years ago who’s sweet, but very fearful. What we are is open, and I write this —- on the occasion of Handsome’s death —- to ask you to be open, too. To be open to an elderly rescue dog.

There are so many Handsomes out there. There just are. We once rescued a 12+ year old lab named Annie Belle whose family dropped her at the shelter because their kids were tired of having a dog. As my friend Donna in rescue says, when an older dog is surrendered, they look around quietly like there must be some mistake. “What happened?” they seem to ask. “Why am I here?” These are real stories. And these dogs, these lovely friends, are waiting and waiting and waiting … for you.

Exactly one week before his death, we had a photographer at the house and she unknowingly took this final photo. Our best boy, his face raised to the sun._MG_5147.jpg

This is what Hope looks like.